Friday, October 7, 2016

Stairway to Heaven 15k and Noble Canyon 50k 2016 (2 race reports in 1, aren't you so lucky)

After taking some time to reflect on the big DNF from this summer, I also took some time off of running to spend with my family. I had already registered for Noble Canyon 50k, because THAT was going to be the race where I earned my coveted Ultra Slam jacket. You may be shaking your head and asking "all this for a jacket?" No, its for bragging rights. I sort of still don't feel like a true ultra runner until I get that 100 mile medal. I know, its crazy.

Stairway to Heaven 15k

So, during the summer, I basically lounged and ran when time permitted. Usually not more than 10 miles or so at a time.  My friend passed on a bib to the Stairway To Heaven 15K on to me when his wife was not able to run it. And despite telling myself I wasn't going to run it this year (because it's always hot and it's not an easy course), I really couldn't pass up a free bib! Of course, the weather forecast was that race day would be 90 degrees. Which was better than last year's 97 degrees. Ugh. The 15k started 15 minutes after the half marathon, so I got there early to get a decent parking space and lounged about passing out YumButter coupons and Potion packs until it was time for my race to start. I knew exactly 1 person running this race, and he was expected to place in the top 3, so I had no one to run with. I turned on my music and went and ran my race. I noticed about a mile or so from the start, that my GPS watch was not on. Crud..... Well, there goes tracking my time. And the first mile was the easiest, so that would have been the best place to get some speed logged. Oh well. I turned on my GPS and went about running the rest of the race. 

Way too soon, we started climbing Widow-maker. I passed runner after runner, and even some half marathoners struggling with the monster hill. It was really hard to figure out who the 15k runners were and the half marathoners. When I finished the last major climb, the dreaded South Fortuna Stairs, I saw my friend Daniel.  I immediately worried he was injured, because he is just so fast I never see him during races, just at the beginning and the end. (Yeah, he was running the half and I was just doing the 15k, logic doesn't work well for me during a race).  I kept him in my sights for a few more miles and despite running this course nearly every weekend for months (except the last 2 miles, we always take a different route), I made a wrong turn and ran 1/4 mile up a fire road before some runners behind me got my attention. Well darn! Oh well. I was only 1 mile from the finish (ish) and hustled in. I finished the race, grabbed my medal and jumped in my car to go home to cheer at my son's soccer game.  

Later, during the game I received a text message from a friend who stayed for the awards ceremony. "Hey, you won something. They just called your name." I'm 99% sure my response was "No, I'm certain you misheard." Then another friend who was volunteering sent me a separate message "Hey, they just called your name!" Well poo..... whaaaaatttttt? I'm not a "fast" runner or "elite" by any stretch to the imagination. Turns out I placed 1st in my age group. (I know, right? I'm so cool, aren't you so glad you know me?)  Well, everything has a price. The race has some gnarly uphills and a vicious downhill. I pounded down that hill so fast to get done, I managed to hurt my back. I ended up having back spasms that were reminiscent of labor pains for 3 days. 3 days of labor pains.... OMG. Needless to say, I was a bit hesitant about running the 50k and 100k I had scheduled for the fall. When I could walk comfortably and run with out pain (approx 2 weeks after my race) I started running mid range distances again.

Noble Canyon 50K.

I'm not going to lie and say I went into Noble Canyon thinking it was going to be a breeze and I was going to rock the heck out of this race.  We are in the middle of unplanned remodeling due to water damage in the kitchen and we were leaving for Hawaii the next day (I know, cry me a river, you're going to Hawaii....).  But, more importantly, I had NOT been running my training plan. I had been running barely 30 miles a week. It was pain free, but it was not a distance that was giving me peace of mind that this notoriously difficult race needed to be run. Thankfully this year the expected temperatures were projected to be in the 70's. Completely awesome. 

Noble Canyon Elevation

The race started in the high 30's and the first 12 miles were amazing. Soon enough the runners started spreading out along the trail and the real running began. Those quirky, goofy runners you watched pre-race started fading and walking (yeah, I'm talking about you. I eyeballed you....). This is the same stretch of trail that absolutely KILLED me during SD100. This time, the weather was 30 degrees cooler and there were no biting flies. Hallelujah!  I'm not sure what you do when you run, but pretty much every time I check my GPS, I do the math to figure out how far I need to run. And when the distance gets down to single digits, I get pretty excited. Is that weird? Anyway, up, up, up we climbed. I felt good during this race, tired (which was to be expected due to lack of training) but less than I expected. I made it to Pioneer Mail and the rather silly 1/2 mile climb up to the peak to turn around and then thru the aid station. One thing I always remember about this section, if you at all think you may need to pee in the next 8 miles, you should go now. The next 8 miles are a mix of dense scrub you can't really wiggle into to find a good spot and open exposed areas you don't want to do that kind of thing. The 'real bathroom' at Pioneer Mail is the type of thing you see at most trailheads. A building, with a hole in the ground and a seat. A smelly, smelly, gross situation. I was elated to find a port-o-potty. That's right, I was happy to find a port-o-potty, don't judge.

The next few miles were spent dodging mountain bikers and making my way back to the start. I didn't really have a sense of urgency about finishing the race, so I lollygagged my way thru this section until my friend Spring caught me. So now I have to attempt to actually run. This area is a rocky area that I don't do well on. Most downhill areas are too rocky for me to run (most guys I know just pound down this area with no care in the world. I am far to chicken and worry about turning an ankle or falling over). So we goofed off and ran walked a bit until we met up with another friend I met training for SD100. It was starting to get a little warm, but it was late enough in the race that it wasn't a huge issue.  When we finally made it to Big Tree aid station, my two friends took off! WHATTTT???? Now I have to chase them, man,.. I hate that. Thankfully the hardest part of the race was done, but I was just under trained enough that I could feel some serious fatigue starting to edge up on me. And even though I probably had 10 miles left, I was just tired and ready to be done with this race. This is the point in a race where ugly thoughts creep in. Doubt. "Can I finish the race? How long is this going to take me? How ugly is this going to get?" Several more people passed me, and finally the very last Trail Crasher passed me as well, making me the last one my training group would be waiting for. Booger. Now I had to run, to see if I could at least catch my friend Gloria. Nope, I had dead legs. I ran walked and made my way down rocky areas, a stream crossing and a lovely scenic forested area. On another exposed, rocky ledge, I passed a friend walking, limping actually. He indicated he thought he tore a tendon when he fell, but just hoped to make it to the aid station so he could drop. I had to weigh some things here, would it be more beneficial to try and help him walk it in (I'm must shorter and smaller than him, so would this even be possible) or would it be better to run ahead and get help? I opted for the 'run ahead and send back help' scenario. Thank goodness the aid station was close to a mile away. As I came running in, I let the aid station captain know about my friend and he walked out to help bring him in. 

Because it was warmer out now, I turned my senses to "snake patrol."  I absolutely hate snakes, which makes it really weird that I would enjoy a sport that throws me into areas just covered in snakes.  Thank goodness I saw no snakes today! I received half of a crytpic message on my watch was I was finishing the race, but I was so intent on finishing I didn't check my phone. I passed a group of guys walking down a lovely downhill and shouted out "Come on guys, its downhill, lets run!" Their response "Man, I hate her." Ha ha ha, that's ok. I was under 2 miles from the finish, and what was up next? A week relaxing in Hawaii!  I ran the remaining 2 miles in and finally caught up with my SD100 friend in the last few yards to the finish. So, with minimal training, I managed to cut 20 minutes off of my time from 2 years ago and I didn't feel like I was about to die (That last bit is pretty important, because not all races end up with you feeling good.). Not to shabby, I'll take it.

The obligatory picture kissing the rat.

What I wanted to eat. I didn't though. 

Wondering about that crytic message? What I quickly read was "really? The day before you leave for Hawaii?" The whole message was "Really? A broken arm the day before you leave for Hawaii?" Um, what? I respond the same back, set my phone down and go wash my gross, grubby, dirty hands. Spring, who had abandoned me 10 miles ago to my own race and thoughts, says "Grayson broke his arm?" Um, what????? Why am I finding out this information from my friends who ran a race with me and who are texting me? WHAT???? Of course my husband is not answering his cell phone. I call my mother in law who is headed to Hawaii with us and currently staying with us. She confirms yes, Gray broke his arm and they are trying to get it casted.  WHATTTTTT?????? I'm an hour away and I have no idea what is going on. I drove in with a friend who had yet to finish, but was meeting her husband at the finish line. I ran out to my car to grab her gear, feeling like a heel for abandoning her without telling her I was leaving, even though I know she has a ride home. Get some food at the finish line and drive to the Children's hospital ER to see if that is where they ended up. I caught up to them and sure enough, broken arm. I made it just in time to see my guy get a cast put on his arm. What an adventure. Now, Hawaii.

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